Light and magnetic fields in a neonatal intensive care unit

John Bullough, Mark S. Rea, Richard G. Stevens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Effects of light and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) on pineal function could have implications for long-term risk of breast cancer, reproductive irregularities, or depression. Health-care workers in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) were interviewed to determine the tasks, work locations. and practices in their work environment as well as the care provided to the infants. After an initial visit, methods for measuring illuminance, luminance, and broadband resultant magnetic fields throughout the NICU were developed Measurements were made of one nursery during a daytime (1:00 p.m.) and a nighttime (12:30 a.m.) visit. Measurements relevant to both nurses and premature infants in the NICU were made. Some measurements could not be completed so as not to interfere with nurses' duties in the NICU. Illuminances measured during the daytime and nighttime averaged 184 and 34 lux (lx), respectively, much lower than those reported in other studies of illuminance in NICUs, with a maximum illuminance of 747 lx. Peak levels may be consistent with those thought to suppress melatonin. There was a high degree of variability in EMF levels, which exceeded 1,000 mG close to certain hospital equipment but averaged 1-2 mG at the nurses' workstation. Fields within incubators exceeded 10 mG.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)396-405
Number of pages10
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Melatonin suppression
  • Occupational exposure
  • Premature infants


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